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Your Community - DIPSTIC

DIPSTIC - Funny name - Fantastic program

DIPSTIC? The Deep Impact team thinks it's an odd name. But it is also an important partnership among students and faculty at Los Angeles Community College (LACC in California), University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP), scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, in California) and the University of Maryland. Together, they are working toward enabling us all to observe a crater-forming event when the Deep Impact spacecraft positions itself in front of the on-coming comet Tempel 1 in July 2005. DIPSTIC, supported by NASA and the Deep Impact project, allows students to build a CCD camera for the coude spectrograph at Table Mountain Observatory located just West of Wrightwood, CA. Students will use this camera to make spectroscopic observations of comet Tempel 1 from Earth both before and after impact and see what chemical changes might be observed in the comet's coma.

The acronym, DIPSTIC stands for Deep Impact Project School Technology Improvement Collaboration. We tried to persuade the program's creators, Dr. Stephen Gillam and Dr. Gilbert Yanow of JPL to rename the program. But the title resonated with students who viewed it as a gauge to study the inside of a comet. The students' perspective was far more important for the project, so it is named. Students at LACC built a CCD camera using a Kodak kit and National Instruments hardware and equipment donated by JPL.

Students at UTEP designed a web page to report on the project. They visited LACC to video tape some of the camera's construction. A poster paper, experiment logs and a written report as well as biographical information on the participating students is available on the project's web page at

The project has reached some important milestones. The CCD is complete, Stephen Gillam is no longer at Table Mountain but is still at JPL, and the project has completed phase C/D (design and build). In order for the project to continue with students observing the encounter event, new funds are being sought.

Besides Drs Gilliam and Yanow, participants included: Deep Impact co-Investigator, Dr. Lucy McFadden, LACC professors Dean Arvidson (Physics) and Mike Pritchard (Chemistry), Mike Slawinski, Robert Lotritz, and Ren Colontoni, of their technical staff, and students Adrian Esqueda, Dario Esqueda, Moshe Molcho, Elvira Grinberg, Ricardo Olivares, and Brian Droncheff. Dr. Harry Schulte, Director of UTEP's Digital Media Lab worked with his students, Frank Luna and Jason Henderson presenting the results of the program in multiple media formats.

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Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010